Is Your Roadside Assistance Plan Right For You? We Did the Comparison
Millions of Americans will be getting behind the wheel for road trips this summer. There’s lots of stuff to plan — where to go, what to bring, who’ll take care of the pets. Another vital part of planning a road trip is thinking about what to do in an emergency. That’s where your roadside assistance plan comes in.
If you already have a roadside assistance plan, you’re paying to keep safe on the road. But how do you know if your plan is the right one for you? Though they offer the same basic services, there’s a wide variety in details — and prices. Here’s a look at the top roadside assistance companies. We compare the costs and what they offer, so you can pack peace of mind on your trips.
What Is Roadside Assistance?
Roadside assistance is when a company dispatches help to a stranded motorist or someone having trouble with their vehicle. The fee that you pay covers most of the basic help provided.
There is an important difference between roadside assistance coverage and roadside dispatch. Coverage does just that — covers the basic costs. For example, if you pay a flat fee every year (or every six months through car insurance), you don’t incur any additional expense for roadside assistance.
Roadside dispatch sends help, but you pay for the majority or all of it. Dispatch is often offered by credit card companies, though there is a wide variety in what is available. They might charge a flat fee for help, or just send assistance and you pay the total costs.
What Is Covered by Roadside Assistance?
Roadside assistance usually encompasses this emergency help:
- Tire repair
- Battery jumps
- Winching (pulling the vehicle out of a ditch or something similar)
- Delivering fuel
There’s a lot of variance in the plans. Some limit the number of times you can get assistance, or will only pay for five miles of towing. Almost all of them promise to get help to you as soon as possible, almost anywhere in North America.
What Companies Offer Roadside Assistance Plans?
There is a wide range of companies and organizations that offer these plans. Cell phone companies, membership clubs like Costco and auto manufacturers have roadside assistance plans. Insurance companies often have it as a low-cost add-on, and of course, you can enroll in a plan from standalone roadside assistance companies.
Credit card companies and banks offer pay-per-use roadside dispatch services. These might be for a flat fee, but are not free to stranded motorists. For example, Bank of America’s Visa offers roadside assistance for a flat $60 fee for each occurrence.
There are often coupons, discounts and membership sales for almost every roadside assistance plan out there. Don’t pay full price if you don’t have to.
Here is a list of companies and organizations offering roadside assistance, with a comparison of the costs and what they offer. Pack peace of mind on your trips.
The best known roadside assistance organization is AAA, formerly known as the American Automobile Association. A AAA membership costs $66-$132 per year and its members get four service calls a year. It offers all of the usual roadside assistance, plus discounts. AAA also provides trip maps as it has grown far beyond helping stranded motorists.
Better World Club
Another roadside assistance club is the Better World Club. Its tagline is “America’s only 100% carbon neutral roadside assistance club for cars and bicycles.” Their membership costs about $62 a year and, like AAA, also covers four service calls.
Looking for a deal? The Better World Club waives its signup fee if you are switching from AAA. There’s also a 10% discount for hybrid or electric vehicles, as well as a standalone bicycle roadside assistance plan.
Good Sam Roadside Assistance
Good Sam covers both automobiles and recreational vehicles like RVs and travel trailers. Their plans range from $50 — the frequent sale price — to $180 a year. The latter includes emergency medical assistance. Good Sam offers unlimited towing and family coverage for member-owned vehicles, pet transport assistance and trip interruption assistance.
Your Auto Insurer
Car insurance companies offer roadside assistance as an add-on to insurance policies. The cost varies, ranging from $10-$40 annually.
Check with your current company about roadside assistance. Important things to consider are whether you can get help through their mobile app or have to talk to an agent how strict their towing and locksmith policies are and any limits on use.
Your new car probably comes with a roadside assistance plan. It can be based on the length of time owned — generally two to five years — or miles — between 36,000 and 100,000 miles, depending on the automaker. All major manufacturers offer this assistance.
General Motors uses OnStar plans, which include roadside assistance, along with wifi, diagnostics, remote access and more. Hyundai and GM have the most generous plans out of the manufacturers we surveyed. Hyundai offers five years of coverage with unlimited mileage, and GM offers coverage for five years or 100,000 miles, whatever comes first.
Tesla also offers assistance for the first four years. Because Tesla dealerships are less common, they offer to cover the first 500 miles of towing to the nearest service center. Toyotacare, offered by Toyota, covers two years of roadside assistance regardless of vehicle mileage.
Some member organizations offer roadside assistance.
The AARP has auto club benefits starting at $66 a year if you are a member.
Costco offers roadside assistance as an add on to their credit card or insurance benefits for $64.
Cell phone companies also offer roadside assistance. Verizon charges $5 a month per line. T-Mobile includes it in its SyncUp program which also costs $5 a month, though new customers may get it free for a year. AT&T still offers roadside assistance to current customers but not to new ones.
Specialty Roadside Assistance Companies
There are a lot of specialized insurance companies for vehicles.
For instance, McGraw Powersports offers insurance for motorcycles, jet skis and off-road vehicles. Meanwhile, Encore insurance primarily offers commercial insurance for fleet coverage, including all sizes of trucks, and some consumer insurance.
Which Type of Roadside Assistance Should You Get?
Auto clubs offer extra benefits — trip plans, social media community and other discounts — which add value to their annual fees. If you use them, great!
But the cheapest option is to add roadside coverage to your vehicle’s insurance. It will end up costing about $40 less annually than most of the other options.
Ready to hit the road? Every program we looked at has a waiting period before benefits kick in. You can’t sign up while stranded and get immediate service, so it is a good idea to take care of this before you start your travels.
The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.